June 1st, 2011 at 5:08 pm
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The medical power of attorney: six things to consider

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

Depending on the state in which you reside, a Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA), Directive to Physicians, and the Out-of-Hospital “Do Not Resuscitate Order” are among the legal documents created to guide your health care decisions by your designated agent if you are unable to do so for yourself. When someone else is in charge of guiding your health care decisions–if you are medically unable to do so–it is best if you have done your homework years in advance–if you wish to protect your best interests down the road.

Basic considerations for your MPOA

There is no hard and fast rule of what all should be considered, but there are six basics that come to mind.

  1. Who is the treating physician? Should you consider changing treating physicians sooner rather than later if your doctor is advancing in age? A change in physicians is not required. However, getting the best medical care possible should always be a consideration.
  2. Think about types of medical treatments. Do you want state-of-the-art medical treatment if your life were to depend on it? Consider technological advances and learn as much as you can about emerging medical treatments.
  3. Who is the designated agent? Think carefully about the health, age, employment and lifestyle habits of your potential designated agent. Would you want an avid bungee jumper as your agent?
  4. Know your designated agent’s values. Engage in heart-to-heart conversations with your designated agent which include your values, thoughts on do-not-resuscitate orders and your current health status. Envision a jury selection process and use a similar approach to learning more about your future agent’s thought process and philosophy about these decisions. Be sure not to rush into legally binding decisions.
  5. Get legal counsel. In some states, an attorney is not required to complete an MPOA. Although an attorney may not required, you may be better off if you do engage legal counsel.
  6. Speak to your loved ones. Discuss your views and values regarding health care situations that could arise in your life. Express your feelings so everyone in your life understands your values and viewpoints.

It is impossible to envision every health care situation you could encounter. That’s all the more reason to do as much as you can to protect your long-term health care outcomes.

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